Writing Exercises

Silver Pod Part 23: The Wisdom in Unthinking Things

This chapter feels disjointed to me, but I was struck by the need to explore some of Beryl’s background in more detail. I had fun writing this part and it was good practice. Enjoy the strange world of the post-human criminal justice system.

Link to part 1

Link to previous part: 22

Before Beryl was human, he was a criminal.

Beryl rendered a representation of himself on the surface of an asteroid named Eye of the Serpent in the Wolf 1061 system. The body he chose to wear was genderless, but conjured ideas of innocence from barbaric ancient times, small nose, mouth, and ears, large eyes, smooth skin. He clothed his avatar in seamless white linen. He waited, immune to the unabated radiation and temperatures a hair above absolute zero, scratching abstractions in the asteroid’s ice with the tip of a pointed slipper. The jury of his peers soon arrived.

A humanoid form traced itself into being on the rim of a nearby crater, remained as tracery, and floated nearer like the ghost of an unfinished sketch in charcoal. Another juror appeared all at once as a perfectly reflective sphere half the size of the asteroid itself. Beryl snorted at that. It was trying too hard to show that it had moved beyond organic forms, yet it still wanted to impress them all with its enormity, as if size meant anything to Post Humans.

More jurors snapped, fizzed, and painted themselves into existence on the surface of the asteroid with varying degrees of flair. Some let the red light of Wolf 1061 tint their appearance and others stood apart, visible in their own preternatural glow, denying the physical world any influence over them. Beryl stood apart. He didn’t think it would serve to let his white linen be tainted by blood red light.

For all the variety of the jurors, Beryl recognized their commonality. They had all once been him. They were all shards of a common Beryl ancestor. How we’ve grown apart, he mused.

The judge arrived, a post human who did not trace its ancestry to a Beryl shard. The judge also appeared as a large sphere and so as to not be upstaged, took the liberty of shrinking the other sphere to a more manageable diameter before bringing the court to order.

“Beryl 937824, you have been found guilty of the murder of Water 626113. Have you anything to say before the jury hands down your sentence?”

Beryl looked out over the assembled post humans. Some of them broadcast emotional states ranging from loathing to pity. Most kept any emotional subprocesses they might be running to themselves. Wolf 1061 beamed its red gaze without judgment. Beryl felt a stab of longing. If only they could understand the wisdom in unthinking things such as a star. He said, “I have nothing more to say.”

It wasn’t murder, he had tried to explain to the court. The jury had decided otherwise. Post humans abhorred finality.

“Very well,” boomed the judge, its voice resounding through electromagnetic waves conducive to the vacuum environment. “Presiding Juror, what is the jury’s decision.”

The tracery in charcoal glowed brightly to bring attention to itself then spoke. “Beryl 9378244, the jury hereby sentences you to exile in the physical world, on Earth, for a period of no less than one thousand years. A body has been selected and will be provided for you. You must not leave your body or leave Earth for the period of your exile.”

A slurry of sadness, anger, and fear surged through Beryl’s simulated mind. He shook his head, long white strands of hair drifting in the asteroids micro-gravity. “What I did was a mercy. I should be allowed to select my own body.”

The judge cut him off. “The jury has spoken!”

Beryl’s shoulders slumped. They would provide him with an immortal human body, hard-wired to fear death, reject suicide, and resist all manner of disease and deprivation. But the body would also be a prison cell, lacking all other amenities.

The jurors began to vanish. Beryl beamed away to his home. His home, digital, of course, was a mixture of abstract and physical renderings, an Escherian mansion full of physical impossibility and wonder. He teleported to his library where stacks stretched so far that they curved beyond the horizon.

Beryl sank to his knees and wept. Sobs echoed like the beating of massive drums. The walls of the mansion heaved in and out like bellows.

He would never be able to pack up all his belongings. The human mind was too limited a storage space compared to his post human library. Worse, as soon as he moved in, all his memories would begin to rot like delicate wood instruments in a swamp.

Reality was even worse than he had imagined.

* * *

Beryl, Besh, and Fife doubled back to the bridge far later than Beryl would have liked. The bald, wiry caretaker of the ship they traipsed through had a killer’s gleam in her eyes. She had no doubt memorized the entire layout of the ship. Who knew what she was capable of.

“If we split up, she’ll pick us off one at a time,” Beryl voiced his fear.

Fife had the audacity to grin, “I wasn’t going to suggest that you go looking for her.”

“Well what were you going to suggest?”

“We lock down the bridge,” Fife said, “See if we can use the ship’s systems to locate her. If not, we continue with the plan: get to the moon as fast as possible and get off this ship.”

Beryl wasn’t even listening to her response. He felt his self-control slipping further away. He blamed this shell, his body. It ached. It sweated. It shivered. It hungered. It seemed as if nothing regulated properly, not even his mind. Thoughts piled over each other in a frenzied mob of shouting. It was all he could do not to lose himself in panic. He envied Besh. The man seemed to heal every time he cried.

A nagging thought kept creeping into Beryl’s mind like a weed through sidewalk cracks: the cowardice he exhibited was not a symptom of mental wiring, but a product of the limited personality he had been allowed to siphon into this body. He uprooted the weed once more.

He had to stay alive and he had to get back to Earth before the authorities found out he was violating the terms of his exile and extended his sentence. That wasn’t cowardice. That was smart thinking.

His guts twisted, then righted themselves after bobbing in his belly as the gravity lift tossed him onto the carpeted bridge with its dashing chrome controls and sculpted acceleration shells. Fife landed elegantly after him. Besh casually stepped off after that.

Fife moved past him to the ship’s controls. Beryl wrung his hands. The panic clutched at him, pulling him down toward its darkness.

“I think I need something to do,” he piped up. “Something to occupy my mind,” he clarified.

Fife threw him an impatient glance over her shoulder then did a double take, looking past him with surprised eyes. Beryl turned to see what was the matter and came face to face with Besh. The man had hardly shown any emotion since their meeting, but his eyebrows crunched together angrily, his muscles held his jaw and mouth rigid, clenched to take a blow. The voice that burned from his throat was like nothing Beryl had heard before.

“What do you think you’re doing?” Besh demanded.

Link to next part: 24


2 thoughts on “Silver Pod Part 23: The Wisdom in Unthinking Things”

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